Today was quite chilly and the wind had a bite to it. If the grounds staff that was here today reads my comment, they'll say, "Oh, were you chilly for the 10 minutes that you were outside today?" My comment would be yes. Marv, Marianne, Terry and Big John are made of tougher stuff and were outside most of the day continuing to progress with our fall chores. To the left is some nice color on that Tiger Eyes golden sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'). This golden-leaved variety (in spring and summer), while not getting the brilliant red fall color of the standard, green-leaves species, still gets some nice, vivid oranges. We must have 30 or so of this large shrub around the gardens and despite it's spreading nature (by runners), this is one of my favorite shrubs. To the right is the increasingly maroon foliage color of the 'Cheyenne Sky' switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). This variety tops out at only 36" tall and while it does have hints of this maroon thru the summer, the later season brings on a deeper and more widespread maroon coloration. Some other nice, smaller varieties of switchgrass with similar maroon coloration include 'Rotstrahlbusch', 'Shenandoah', 'Haense Herms', 'Prairie Fire' and my favorite, Ruby Ribbons ('RR1'). There are some very large switchgrasses (Panicum virgatum) that have merit too but these "medium-height" varieties have more applications and potential in my mind because of both size and the maroon tinting. There are still some blooms out there in the gardens although the frost tomorrow night will have an effect. To the left is one of the "bottlebrush-like", pink blooms of the golden mountain fleece (Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow'). These pink blooms (2-3" tall) started in June above golden foliage and have had a resurgence these past couple of cooler weeks. This perennial does well in full sun or part shade and tops out around 30" tall.
Marv and Terry did a nice job spreading soil, leveling and reseeding a large portion of our terrace garden lawn which had some odd settling and weed issues this year. The guys also composted a border, rototilled and brought back more large containers for emptying and winter storage. Marianne started and ended the day checking/testing lights and is our #1 lights tester (with Janice a close second). Marianne was also out in the gardens tidying up and did more focused clean-up in the entrance garden. Big John worked on hauling back more obelisks for decoration, yanked plenty of plants, emptied more containers and packed up some displays/supplies that will go to a trade show tomorrow. I worked on 2012 education plans with Kris K., caught up on desk work, finished my presentation for the volunteer dinner tomorrow night and continue to finalize my presentation on Bulbs for October 26th at RBG (6 pm - 8 pm). Next week is when we'll hit full stride with set-up for the Holiday Lights Show. While everyone has started to some degree and there are already some lights out in the gardens (from Terry and Marv), I still need to get my cartload of extension cords ready to go and start running them out in the garden areas that have been cleared out. To the above right is the narrow-leaf ironweed (Vernonia lettermannii 'Iron Butterfly') still blooming with violet-pink flower clusters in the English cottage garden. I think these are still doing well as they are positioned next to a sheltering, warm wall. To the above left is the maroon fall color of the Golden Peep dwarf forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia 'Courdijau') which really is quite striking in October (as well as early May!). Also to the right is a shot of the root mass of the blue lyme grass (Elymus arenarius 'Blue Dune') that was in some of our containers this year. That "cylinder of roots" is as big as a #5 gallon bucket. The staff and volunteers have been struggling to dig it out of our blue/yellow theme beds as it spreads such substantial roots (I've received many sarcastic thank yous for having it planted this year). I'm sure we'll have small ones to dig up yet next year. When John pulled these out of the culvert pipe planters in the terrace garden, they were a solid "cupcake o' roots". This image should be a good example on why you would not want to plant it in your garden directly. Also to the left is the engaging, "camoflauge-like" bark of the lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana) in the North American garden. That looks pretty neat to me and I've seen larger specimens and the bark just gets more interesting with age.
We didn't have a lot of volunteer assistance today. However, Dr. Gredler was in to do some mowing and leaf collection around the gardens. It seems like "shoveling in a snowstorm" sometimes but we do like to keep the gardens tidy and hope that we continue to have late season visitors. There is still plenty of interest out in the gardens with fall color, the last of the blooms, ornamental grasses, ornamental bark & berries, etc. I think I sometimes underestimate the late season beauty of the gardens that still exists after the seasonal plants ("eye candy") are removed. Dick H. was in to work on the dump truck and we also saw Mary D., Bev, Janice, Kris, Urban and Little Jerry today. Although the flowers of the Quickfire panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Bulk') have gone thru the white and pink stages, I think they still look interesting (above right). These amber flower structures should hold on thru winter and still offer some visual interest. Directly below are some of the hops on the golden hops vine (Humulus lupulus 'Nugget') in the herb garden. When crushed, these hop flowers (or hop "cones") actually smell like beer. The spring foliage on this variety is bright yellow, aging to charteuse in summer and green by fall. Be wary, this is a vigorous vine but this variety is popular for it's flavoring and this is one of the last hop varieties to be picked because of late flowering.